E-commerce foes near consensus on online disputes

National Journal's Technology Daily
Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Representatives of businesses and consumers on Tuesday crept closer toward an understanding on how best to develop alternative means of resolving disputes for online business-to-consumer transactions across borders.

At a hearing at the Federal Trade Commission, the various sides to the ongoing international debate remained far apart on key issues but began to show signs of a consensus on creating strictly voluntary mechanisms for resolving online disputes. Such a mechanism in essence would provide a way for the two sides to hold an initial communication about a problem a consumer had with a low-value product or service.

Participants predicted that alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which seeks to resolve controversies out of court, would lead to the resolution of some 80 percent of business-to-consumer disputes that arise.

The degree of suspicion among consumer groups about businesses' intentions in developing online ADR systems was apparent in the comments of Joanne Doroshow of the Center for Justice and Democracy. She told the meeting that there is "an enormous amount of skepticism" among groups that business is trying to do an "end-run" on legal disputes through mandatory ADR clauses. She said afterward that the use of a mandatory clause by business is "a way of keeping people from exercising their rights."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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